L'Oreal's revolutionary technology could provide a cure for hair thinning

Model brushing her hair | How bioprinting could help cure hair loss
Could bioprinting help cure hair loss? Credit: Shutterstock/Rex

Over eight million British women suffer with hair loss and it's an issue that's getting worse. While there are plenty of products on the market that promise to reawaken sleeping hair follicles or promote healthy hair growth (Kerastase Densifique Density Activator Coffret, £99.90), as of yet there is no resolute cure.

L'Oreal is getting closer though. Today, the beauty giant announced it has teamed up with Poietis, a French company that specialises in bioprinting.

Together the two brands are trying to create fully functioning hair follicles using 4D laser-assisted printing technology. Not only will this groundbreaking technology further L'Oreal's understanding of hair biology, but it will also give them a new way of testing hair thinning products. 

What is a hair follicle and why is L'Oreal trying to print them? 

You have millions of hair follicles all over your body, from each of which stems a single hair strand. "The hair follicle is one of the most complex organs in terms of structure as it has over 15 different types of cells within four different compartments," explains Bruno Bernard, L'Oreal's hair biology expert.

Understanding how the cells within the follicle are structured and work together will give scientists a better understanding of what they need to stay healthy and therefore prevent hair thinning as well as loss. 

4D bioprinting technology could help cure hair loss

What is bioprinting?

"Laser-assisted bioprinting technology has the unique capability to print cells one-by-one in the highest resolution," explains Fabien Guillemot, CEO and chief scientific director of Poietis. Essentially is works in a similar way to a 3D ink-jet printer, and can create an intricate layering of micro-drops of cells on a surface. 

It is the fourth dimension of time that makes this concept revolutionary though. With time the cells have the potential to grow into fully functioning hair follicles. 

What does it mean for the future of hair loss?

While bioprinting won't directly cure hair loss, it will give scientists a greater understanding of how hair follicles work and it will give them a new means of testing potential ingredients and products. Currently, most hair thinning products are tested on scalp biopsies taken during surgery or on real-life people in clinical trials. Both of which are timely and expensive. 

Is bioprinting the future for product testing?

For years L'Oreal has been making human skin in the lab to test its skincare and make-up products. It's no stranger to the concept of bioprinting either. The company announced a partnership with the American brand Organovo, which prints skin cells.

It makes sense then for the same technology to be transferred into haircare. However, Bernard warns that the hair follicle is much more complex and as a result the process will take time. "It will be at least two years until we have follicle, and even then I'm being very optimistic."